An ethnic rebel group in northern Myanmar said it shot down a government military helicopter on Monday during heavy fighting over a strategic position.
The claim by the Kachin Independence Army came as protests against Myanmar’s military government continued in Kachin State and elsewhere in the country. It would be the first aircraft shot down during recent hostilities between the government and ethnic guerrilla armies.
The Kachin are one of several ethnic minorities who have allied themselves with the nationwide protest movement against the military’s February ouster of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested and remains in detention. The country’s ethnic minorities have been fighting for decades against the central government for greater autonomy.
Government offensive is under way against the Kachin and the Karen, another ethnic minority in eastern Myanmar that maintains its own armed force and also has been the target of air strikes. The fighting in Kachin and Karen states has displaced more than 45,000 villagers.
Col. Naw Bu, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army, said his group’s forces shot down the aircraft after junta used helicopters and jet fighters in an attack on Momauk township, where the Kachin seized a base from the government on March 25.
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